Our representatives and senators are busy these days dealing with all kinds of bills that their supporters would like to become law. You can almost hear the wheels churning in Augusta; sometimes progress is made, sometimes the wheels get stuck, hub-deep in mud, in a kind of legislative limbo.

A case in point is a proposal blandly entitled LD 11. Its more informative title is “An Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Establish the Right to Hunt and Fish.” Now maybe I missed something here, but I thought – and you may share this view – that Mainers already have the right to hunt and fish, so why this legislation? After all, you can’t give something to someone who’s already got it.

A closer look at the bill’s language – with text provided by the NRA – indicates that something is being taken away, not given, and that’s the right of all citizens to participate in decisions about the state’s animals on the premise that Maine’s wildlife are a common resource, not someone’s private preserve.

In effect, LD 11 would eliminate the people’s right to “infringe” upon current laws and “traditional methods” to hunt, fish and trap (added in an amended version) game (later changed to wildlife). In other words, ambushing bears over human junk food, hounding bears and bobcats with GPS collared dogs, trapping all kinds of animals and executing them as they lay unable to escape is what the so-called right to hunt is about – protecting these inhumane practices and in the process taking away the people’s right to gather enough support to end them. It’s also an attack on the citizen’s initiative process that was created to remedy legislative inaction or obstruction.

So where’s LD 11 today? It’s stuck in the mud that often characterizes politics. It was the subject of a public hearing held before the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on April 20, 2017, where testimony overwhelmingly opposed the bill’s passage. A work session was held on May 4, carried over to May 12, and then carried over again to Feb. 1 of this year and was voted (9 – 4) Ought Not To Pass, with an amended version, adding trapping and changing “game” to “wildlife.”

LD 11 was then sent to the House where representatives on Feb. 20 voted (75 – 69) to support the ONTP decision. The bill – along with its amended version – was conveyed to the Senate where Sen. Scott Cyrway (R- Kennebec), chair of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, tabled it on Feb. 20.

Oddly enough, the Senate has to determine whether LD 11 or its amended version is the one they’ll choose. As of this writing, that’s where it sits – tabled and also “later assigned,” though it’s not clear exactly what that means.

It’s been a very long process – nearly a year – with no end in sight, though the issues are simple. Do we want to reduce the democratic process that has a long tradition in Maine by excluding the majority of our citizens from decisions in which all should be able to participate? And, considering that LD 11 has been opposed by the committee that heard it, as well as the House of Representatives, why has a decision been delayed so long by the Senate?

We can all find out by urging our senators – see a list at maine.gov if you’re not sure who they are – to protect our rights and get this bill out of the mud of legislative limbo.

Don Loprieno

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